Overall health awareness has grown in 2020 due to the novel coronavirus. Experts say that preexisting conditions can exacerbate symptoms of COVID-19, impede recovery, and contribute to or be a leading cause of fatalities. While the development and administration of a vaccine can put the brakes on COVID-19, control of chronic medical conditions is key to reducing vulnerability in individuals with or without the virus. Diabetes, type 1 or type 2, are serious metabolic diseases that can complicate coronavirus recuperation. WebMD shares, “Your risk of catching the virus isn’t higher than anyone else’s. But you could have worse complications if you get sick. That’s especially true if diabetes isn’t well-controlled.” It is known that diabetes can wreak havoc on the human body and cause damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves and more, if left untreated. Thus, there is a race for a cure.
The American Diabetes Association reports that every 21 seconds, someone new is diagnosed with diabetes. The disease occurs when blood glucose, a main source of energy that comes from food, is too high. Insulin is a hormone made by beta cells in the pancreas. It brings glucose from the blood into cells to be used for energy and controls the level of glucose in the blood. In type 1 Diabetes, the body fails to produce enough insulin, whereas in type 2 Diabetes insulin resistance occurs. Current treatments for diabetes range from self-care to medications, including insulin injections, depending upon which therapies are required to control blood glucose levels. In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system destroys beta cells. Scientists believe that stem cell science could lead to treatments and a cure. While the use of stem cells has historically been controversial, mainly due to ethics, induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS cells) created by reprogramming human somatic cells is hopeful as it does not involve the use of human embryos.
Harvard University Professor Douglas Melton, Ph.D., is a leader in stem cell research for diabetes. He identified how to make beta cells, which people with type 1 diabetes lack. Through animal testing, he demonstrated that the manufactured beta cells can measure glucose and secrete insulin when the body needs it. Dr. Melton, the founder of several biotech companies and father of children with diabetes, has a professional and personal mission to find a cure. In 2014, he co-founded Semma Therapeutics, a biotechnology company committed towards a cure for diabetes, which was acquired by Vertex Pharmaceuticals in 2019. The pharmaceutical company is involved in transplant technology to replace the beta cells that are destroyed in people with type 1 diabetes. The company is also working on an implantable device to protect transplanted cells from the immune system. These advancements are aimed at ridding patients of insulin injection dependency and are expected to be available soon.
This article is purely informational and is not intended as medical advice. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your lifestyle.